In general, it goes without saying that you should be sure to thank donors to your cause. Without their donations, your organization wouldn’t be able to perform its good work. Your donors believe in what you do enough to commit their financial resources to help you succeed. Pretty clearly, a thank you is in order when you receive a donation. But how often should you thank recurring donors?
Is it possible to over-thank your donors?
For example, when you have a donor giving on a monthly basis, is it worthwhile to send a monthly donor thank you letter after every installment? Or is there a risk that by reminding them they’re a recurring donor you could trigger them to cancel their recurring donation?
Looking to learn more about donor retention? Check out our post, Why Donors Lapse and How You Can Stop It.
Gabe Cooper: Hey, this is Gabe Cooper from Virtuous, and I’m here with Stephen Boudreau, the co-founder of RaiseDonors. Stephen and I were just having a great conversation, and so I thought I’d ask him a question or two here. Just ’cause I think it would be helpful for our digital fundraisers out in the world. Stephen, thanks so much for joining us.
Stephen Boudreau: My pleasure. It’s always nice to talk to you.
GC: Yeah. So we were just chatting, and I thought you had just such an incredible insight around this, around how people are following up and thanking donors. You had this great situation you alluded to, so tell us a little bit more of your philosophy, and how you thank donors, particularly digital donors.
SB: Yeah, so I was having a conversation with a customer, and they were just expressing some concern over receipting their monthly donor. Every month when that gift hits, they get a receipt and a thank-you note. So they had just expressed some hesitance, because an agency they’d worked with in the past had told them that reminding those monthly donors that they’re giving every month increases the likelihood that they’ll cancel the gift.
I just resist this very intently. And not just technically turning the feature on and off, just philosophically treating your donors as an adversary. As if the relationship is something that you’re nervous about or nervous to remind them that they’re involved with what you’re partaking in, when really they’ve already made one of the ultimate steps forward by saying, “Hey, I’m not only gonna give you a donation, I’m gonna continue to do it on a monthly basis.”
That receipt, that thank you note, every touch point is an opportunity to remind them why they’re participating, to invite them to share the opportunity with other people, and most importantly to say thank you. Because there’s a higher risk in not thanking your donors on a continuous basis, because they might think you’re taking them for granted. So I just think philosophically you should always err on the side of gratitude.
GC: Over thanking. Yeah, absolutely. Chris Horst is another guy who I love his thinking in the industry. I think he says they like to thank their people seven times before they ask again. So it’s just this overflowing gratitude in everything they do. I think that first touch, especially after digital … right after they give a gift. But then right after that recurring gift processes every month, I think it’s amazing opportunity to be shoulder-to-shoulder for your donors, as opposed to adversaries like you said. I think it’s a great example.
SB: And we wouldn’t take that approach in any other area of life. Like I don’t tell my kids, “Hey, don’t thank your teachers for doing a good job!” Or, “Don’t thank whoever, wherever you are, until once a year. Only save it up ’til then.” Gratitude, people never get tired of being thanked.
GC: Yeah, that’s brilliant, man. Well hey, thanks for taking a couple of seconds here with us. I really appreciate it, and I know the folks watching will appreciate it too.
SB: Appreciate it. Thank you.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.